PCOS is a complex condition with a wide range of whole-body symptoms that can adversely impact a woman’s physical health, mood and fertility. Insulin resistance, weight gain, male-pattern excess hair growth (hirsutism), acne and irregular periods are just a few of the symptoms. While the exact cause is unknown, it is clear that inflammation is a key factor in the condition. Thankfully, it is completely possible to manage the symptoms of PCOS through simple changes to your lifestyle to help lower inflammation. Here are my top 5 tips for managing PCOS naturally:
1. Nourish your gut
When living with any condition implicated by inflammation, the health of the gut is an incredibly important factor to consider. As our gut is intrinsically linked with our immune system, it plays a pivotal role in controlling systemic inflammation (you can read more about the gut and inflammation here). Eating a healthy diet including a diverse range of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and wholegrains will provide your gut with the fibre it needs to thrive. There are many other things you can do, such as increasing your consumption of omega 3, to support the health of your gut - head over to this article LEAKY GUT PART 3 to find out more.
2. Reduce sugar and refined carbohydrates
Insulin resistance, sometimes referred to as carbohydrate intolerance, occurs when our bodies struggle to regulate blood sugar because it has become less sensitive to signals from insulin (to read more about sugar and insulin resistance, click here), and it is both a driver and symptom of PCOS (1). As such, reducing sugar and refined carbohydrates, which are digested quickly and spike blood sugar, is paramount to symptom control; instead, focus on wholegrains and complex carbohydrates which are digested more slowly. Wholemeal, rye and sourdough bread, brown rice, sweet potato, fruits and vegetables are all good sources.
3. Get some shut eye
When we sleep, our bodies ‘clear up’ excess hormones, toxins and inflammation - look at bedtime as your body’s chance to flush out anything it doesn't need. As inflammation is a key player in PCOS, good quality sleep is crucial for managing the symptoms of the condition. A lack of good quality sleep also dysregulates our hunger and satiety hormones and blood sugar, meaning the next day it’s likely you’ll be craving those sugary treats that will wreak havoc with your blood glucose, further increasing inflammation (2).
4. Move your body
Not only is regular exercise important for healthy weight management, which is useful for the management of the condition, but studies have also shown it can improve insulin sensitivity which in turn can reduce inflammation and support healthy blood sugar balance (3). Alongside the physiological benefits, movement is also a great way to lift your mood and support mental health; this is important as women with PCOS are at greater risk of developing comorbidities such as low mood, depression and anxiety (4). Be sure to choose gentle forms of exercise to prevent increasing inflammation through the excess production of cortisol, the stress hormone.
5. Add in a supplement
There are several supplements that have been shown to benefit women with PCOS, including curcumin (the active ingredient in turmeric) (5) and omega 3 (6). They work because both are powerful antiinflammatories, so can help to reduce systemic inflammation and support hormone regulation. A number of studies have shown omega 3 can also lower excess androgen production, which can reduce symptoms such as hirsutism, low mood and acne.
DEFLAME is a plant-based liquid supplement containing omega-3, curcumin, ginger and frankincense designed to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress. To read more about DEFLAME, click here.